Monday, 7 June 2021

A Day At The Beach

Yesterday, 6th June 2021, was the 77th Anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, during WW2. 

On our motorbike holiday to France in 2006, Bob and I visited the Normandy beaches. There were many monuments and sites to visit. We spent a lot of time at the Juno Beach Centre, maintained by the bilingual Canadians, it is utterly brilliant. But at that time, there was no British Memorial. 

Nine years later, George Batts, a D-Day veteran, met BBC broadcaster Nicholas Witchell, and pointed out that alone among all the principle Allied nations in WW2, the UK did not have its own memorial. The Normandy Memorial Trust was established.

Fundraising started, research was commissioned - and the aim was to honour all who died, whether on land, or sea- or in the air - who were in some way involved with the Battle of Normandy. 

Two years ago, in 2019, on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the site was inaugurated, and a bronze statue of three servicemen unveiled. This inspiring piece is by David Williams-Ellis.[ DWE is the great-nephew of Sir Clough W E who designed Portmeirion in Wales] 

Despite the pandemic, work continued, and on Sunday the Memorial was finally officially opened. You can find out more here- and watch the ceremony. Prince Charles spoke via videolink - watched by selected guests in Normandy, and a number of veterans and their families at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

160 columns of French stone were shipped to Northern Ireland to be inscribed with the names of 22440 men - and two women who died. The women were nurses Sister Dorothy Field and Sister Mollie Evershed, working on the hospital ship Amsterdam, treating casualties of Juno Beach. The ship hit a mine and began to sink. The women went back into the lower decks, repeatedly- carrying seventy five injured men to safety, before they themselves drowned. [Find out more here]

The names have been inscribed in a rather unusual way - names down one face, and on the adjacent face, the person's rank and age. But all listed in chronological order of death- so you see the names of those comrades who died together being listed together. [ reminiscent of 2 Samuel 1;23, 'beloved and beautiful in their lives, and in their deaths they were not divided]

This arrangement will make it easier for visitors, who know when their loved one died, to identify quickly where the name is written - simply by going to the columns for that date. 

Jane Furlong, the lead historical researcher for the project has spoken of the moving stories behind these names. Do check out the website- it is full of tributes to the men and women who gave their lives for a free Europe - and inspiring stories of veterans who lived on to fight for a lasting, fitting, memorial to their fallen comrades. I am so glad Nicholas Witchell took up George Batts' vision - and helped make it happen. Let us never forget the cost of the freedom we enjoy today.


  1. That sounds a really well thought out memorial!

  2. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "A day at the beach" doesn't it? Thank you for all the links, Angela.

  3. "We will remember them".

  4. What a wonderful day it is! Thanks for sharing.


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